After the initial visitation of the family, the reposing room will typically stand open to anybody that may wish to pay there respects. During this time people come and go as they see fit, sometimes they come when the family is not there, maybe they don’t know what to say, or perhaps they could only get to the funeral home during a time the family was not going to be there. Nevertheless, when the deceased lay in state, the traffic flow through the funeral home remains fairly steady.
I was standing in the lobby of the funeral home one beautiful summer afternoon, watching the shadows grow long as dusk approached under a fire red sunset. The funeral home was situated on a very busy main through fare in town with no parking on the busy street at the front of the building. It was an unwritten custom for patrons to enter through the back doors, for that was where the parking lot is. It was very rare that anybody other than the mailman would use the front door.
When the front door opened it startled me a bit. I turned to find a man searching the directory of reposing rooms, as if looking for the name of the person he was there to pay his respects to. He was dressed in tattered clothing, and had several days growth on his dirty face. He had an odor of alcohol about him but he did not appear intoxicated. “Can I help you sir?” I asked of him. “No, I have come to see this lady here,” pointing to a name on the directory. I showed the man towards the reposing room where the deceased rested. He went in and made his way to the register book, I figured everything was in order, after all, who was I to judge. I had no more returned to the lobby when he brushed by me at a hasty pace. The whole situation did not set well with me as I watched him exit from the same front door he entered. I returned to the reposing room to check on the lady. At first everything appeared to be in order until further examination revealed that her diamond wedding band was missing. I bolted to the lobby and told the receptionist to call the police and exited the front door after the man. He was not far down the road, I assumed he figured his victim wasn’t talking and he need not rush any longer. That all changed once I bellowed to him “Hey buddy, lets talk for a moment!” He stopped, casting his form in the silhouette of the setting sun. I thought for a moment he might come back to talk to me, and the whole incident would be over, but he bolted. The chase was on – he wearing tatters of the street, and me in my black suit and tie racing down the busy main street of our small town. To the people we darted by, it must have seemed a bit surreal, like a foot chase from a movie. We sprinted by pedestrians, cut through traffic, he trying to shake me at every turn and me doing my best to keep up. He had speed on his side but endurance prevailed and I caught him after a five-block frenzy. I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and he just gave up, throwing his hands in the air. “Fine you want it. Here!” giving me the ring. He continued “But you know something!? Dead people don’t need to eat.” “No they don’t” I replied, “Dead people need to be honored.” Just then, the police showed up, ready to take the man to jail. We locked in a gaze with one another, as he was shoved over the patrol car, and was being frisked. Something inside me was sad for the man. It was obvious he had fallen on hard times. “If you would rather make a days wage instead of steal it, give me a call when you get yourself together” I tucked a business card in his top pocket. The police carried the man away. He looked at me through the back glass of the cruiser. A few days later I was in the front lobby and was startled by the opening of the front door. It was he; “Well?” he beckoned to me. “I am glad to see you. Lets take a ride.” I answered. A friend of my owned a vault company where concrete burial vaults were made and sold. I called him as we drove to his place telling him of this man’s previous adventure with me, and asked him to do me a favor. I introduced the two and they seemed to hit it off right away. They spoke to one another in very plain words, and it was obvious that each had mutual respect for the other. I turned to leave and the man hurried to my side and touched my shoulder. When I turned, I found him there holding back tears, “Why?” he asked.” Why what?” I replied. “Why do you care?” Tears now falling from his eyes. “Well, I figured it was about time somebody did,” I answered with a man-to-man handshake. “The rest is up to you.”